Monday 2 January 2017

Birthdays - What Does 'Growing Up' Really Mean?

   It's my birthday on the 9th. I've been dreading it, if I'm honest - in fact, I've dreaded it for the past four years. It's no secret that my life is less than ordinary because of my mum's disability; my boyfriend and I live with my parents so we can look after her while my dad works full-time as a team leader at GKN, and, naturally, that leads to a cramped house with little true freedom and, above all else, no opportunity to start a life of our own.
   I feel it necessary to state that I'm not actually complaining. I understand necessity, and my dad is genuinely grateful for the help we provide as my mum needs someone on hand at all times and we can't afford a nurse and neither would we want to put her in a home at the age of 49. And, if I'm honest, staying home looking after her all day, every day, has given me the time to run an Etsy shop and, above all else, work on my writing - in short, chase the dream I've had since I was 12.

   But of course, there are certain expectations people have for their lives, and other people have for those around them. 'Growing up', they call it.
   See, my friends understand my situation, but my grandparents, outspoken and misinformed as they are, are oblivious to the extent of my mum's condition (secondary progressive multiple sclerosis) and spout that Seeg and I should have moved out long ago, gotten jobs and 'grown up'. When we finally do leave and 'grow up', because it will have to happen eventually, my dad will give up work because there's no one else willing to look after my mum - not even her misinformed parents, nor my sister who only appears at the door when she wants something. He's made it clear that he's dreading that development.
   But though I know my grandparents are simply wrong in their assumptions and view of the circumstances, I can't help letting it get to me because I always thought that, by the age of 26, I would have gotten a job and been about ready to move out, property permitting.

   So I've dreaded my birthday for the last few years. I'd never really known why, but this year I finally worked out that these are the reasons why, and now I've identified them, I'm facing them head on. We've got money in the savings, made from my little Etsy shop - it's not enough to do anything with, but it's something - and I've got achievements under my belt that I am immensely proud of:

1. I'm officially self-employed, running my own business on Etsy.
2. I've had a 3-month art exhibit in 2015 and have been invited back for 2018.
3. I've published a fantasy novel and I'm working solidly on another, which is miles better.
4. I've dropped from a size 16 to a size 8 in 2 years and gained flexibility, strength and definition due to having the time to dedicate myself to myself.

   So, this year, I've found I don't care that much that I'm a year older and that time is still steadily moving on, whether I'm moving with it or not. I'm turning my mind away from blind expectations and continuing to do both what I must, and what I'm good at. I'm happy, believe it or not - I don't resent my mum's illness nor my situation - and in the end, that's what counts in life. I have no debts, I have no regrets, and while I can count my friends on one hand, and could continue to do so even if I lost half my fingers, my situation has weedled out the weak and unreliable and left me with people I know I can count on 1000%, and I hope I can deliver them the same.

   So, on Monday the 9th, I will turn 26. I will not lose my achievements; I will continue to dedicate myself to my dreams and my family, and I will continue to love myself and those around me to the degree they all truly deserve. And that gives me strength of self and an immense sense of true worth, which makes me proud to be who I am and living the life I've been giving, making the best out of the hand I've been dealt. I have nothing whatsoever to be ashamed or embarrassed by, and, truly, I can get out of bed every morning and greet the world with a smile.
   And that, surely, is being 'grown up'.


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